Bulls

Bulls' draft pick Mirotic opens up in interview

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Bulls' draft pick Mirotic opens up in interview

Unlike his fellow 2011 first-rounder Jimmy Butler, who played just up the road at Milwaukee's Marquette University in the Big East Conference, not much is known about Bulls draft pick Nikola Mirotic.

The 6-foot-10 forward revealed he was pleased by the Bulls' decision to draft him in a recent interview by Spain-based basketball news outlet HoopsHype.com.

"I was thrilled by the Chicago option. I had talked with them and I was thrilled and attracted by this possibility. So I stayed in the draft because of Chicago," said Mirotic, who told the site he learned of the Bulls' interest "maybe two to three weeks before the draft."

"You can never be 100 percent sure, but I kind of knew they were going to pick me."

Since the draft, Mirotic hasn't second-guessed his decision to remain in the draft.

"I was very happy. I spoke with Bulls director of international scouting Ivica Dukan, whos Croatian, and I was very thrilled. I think its a team thats growing and has a lot of young players. Time will tell exactly when I go over there or if I go. Right now, Im happy and I want to reach my goals here," he continued. "They have a great history and they are building a great team. Of course, I like the coach and the manager is Croatian and Im familiar with him. So my decision to stay in the draft was perfect.

"I re-signed for five years with an NBA out. Well see what happens. I still cant tell if Im leaving in two, three, four or five years. Im thinking about this year right now. I cant tell how long Im going to stay," added the Real Madrid forward, who did not play on Spain's gold-medalist EuroBasket squad, as the champions opted to use Thunder forward Serge Ibaka as their team's allotted naturalized citizen. "I would like to make that jump to the NBA."

As for his NBA readiness, Mirotic takes on a humble approach, despite having garnered rave reviews for his continued development over the past year and change.

"I see myself as a power forward, but one that can play outside and shoot the three, go to the hole," said Mirotic, the MVP of the FIBA Under-20 European Championships for titlist Spain.

"Its been a super important and key year for me because Ive made a lot of progress. Ive done things real well. But this has to be just the beginning for me. I know I can keep improving. Im working on it and I expect bigger things for myself," the 20-year-old, whose parents hail from Montenegro and Spain, continued. "Last year I worked real well and current Lakers assistant coach Ettore Messina helped me. This year, theres a lot of expectations on me. I have to keep improving in several areas--most notably defense and some tactical stuff. Time will tell, but I hope I can help Real Madrid any way I can.

"I always think team first. Our goal is to contend for every title. We didnt start in the best possible way at the Supercup, we couldnt win it, but we have the ACB League, the Cup, the Euroleague," he added. "As for myself, I dont know what to tell you. Being 20, you cant just focus on improving one or two things. I have to improve in every area."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Wendell Carter Jr. making a name for himself as top defender in 2018 class

Wendell Carter Jr. making a name for himself as top defender in 2018 class

Wendell Carter Jr. has been one of the few bright spots in a tough stretch for the Bulls. 

Speculation around the time of the 2018 NBA Draft was that Mohammed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. or even DeAndre Ayton could end up being better defenders than Carter due to their athleticism. And while time will tell if this is true, so far in 2018-19, Carter has shown that he is ahead of his peers in terms of breaking down what is happening in front of him and assessing what his responsibility is. One of the main thing holding back the Bulls on defense is ball-watching.

To be effective against an opponent that swings the ball around on offense—generating good shots from the strong and weakside—your defense needs to have all five players on the floor with their head on a swivel, keeping an eye on the ball and their man. Carter has done a lot of leading by example in this specific area. 

Carter's defensive numbers have been head-and-shoulders above his fellow rookie big men and with Hoiberg trusting him with 25+ minutes a night, the gap between he and his peers is likely to grow.

Heading into Wednesday's game, opponent's attacked him frequently within 6 feet of the basket. When Carter defends shot within 6 feet of the basket he makes opponent's shoot 9.3 percent worse, the best mark on the Bulls if you consider sample size. 

As of now, Carter is still on pace to be the only teenager in NBA history to average at least 2 blocks per game. And if he keeps this up, his case for Rookie of the Year will only get stronger.

And with all of the injuries and struggles of this young team, Carter's impressive defensive IQ continues to bring hope.

The Bulls upcoming back-to-back will see them take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard respectively. 

These matchups will likely show just how far away the Bulls are from being a competitive team. But with Chicago’s perimeter defense lacking sufficient wing defenders, these two games will also showcase Carter’s ability to be the last line of defense, on a team that could use a first one.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jimmy Butler makes debut for Philly

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jimmy Butler makes debut for Philly

Patrick Finley and Anthony Herron join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about Zach LaVine’s minutes load, Lauri Markkanen’s rehab and Jimmy Butler’s debut for Philly. Plus, they discuss if Draymond Green might have just pushed Kevin Durant out the door in Golden State when this season is over?

13:00 - The guys dissect Mitch Trubisky’s NFC Offensive Player of the Week award and Cody Parkey travelling to Soldier Field to practice kicking.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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